AirPlay is Apple's Wi-Fi streaming tech and there's now a second-generation version that's now widely available. But what is AirPlay 2, what can it do and what products can you use it with?
What is Apple AirPlay 2?
- Update to Apple's long-running AirPlay protocol
- Offers multi-room and stereo pairing for HomePod
- Supports music, photos, video and mirroring
Apple AirPlay 2 offers wireless streaming of content from your Apple device (like your iPhone, iPad or Mac). Originally this was dominated by music, but it also covers photos and video, so will let you stream a wide range of content from your phone to your Apple TV - and in 2019 your television. AirPlay 2 also includes device mirroring to share the content of your phone's display on another device.
AirPlay 2 opens up a whole world of multi-room streaming capabilities that were previously not available on the iPhone or iPad and also ushers in multi-room compatibility for the HomePod.
AirPlay was first introduced in September 2010, having previously been called AirTunes for audio-only streaming. The basic premise of AirPlay and AirPlay 2 is a system comprising a sender and a receiver. The sender is something like your MacBook or iPhone, and the receiver is an Apple TV or third-party speaker, such as a Sonos device. All devices need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
For video, Apple AirPlay 2 is also becoming available on a range of TVs including 2019 models from Samsung, Sony and LG.
This was previously limited to Apple TV, but with support from major manufacturers, AirPlay 2 is now a lot more useful for video consumption in the home.
Which Apple devices support AirPlay 2?
AirPlay 2 rolled out as part of iOS 11.4. The full list of compatible devices is as follows and these are basically the Apple devices you'll be able to use:
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XR
- iPhone X
- iPhone 8 Plus
- iPhone 8
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 6S
- iPhone 6S Plus
- iPhone 6
- iPhone 6 Plus
- iPhone SE
- iPhone 5S
- 12.9in iPad Pro (first generation)
- 12.9in iPad Pro (second generation)
- 9.7in iPad Pro
- 10.5in iPad Pro
- iPad (2018)
- iPad (fifth generation)
- iPad Air 3
- iPad Air 2
- iPad Air
- iPad mini 5
- iPad mini 4
- iPad mini 3
- iPad mini 2
- iPod touch (6th generation)
- Apple TV 4th Gen
MacBook and MacBook Pro
- MacBook: Late 2009 or later
- iMac/iMac Pro:Late 2009 or later
- MacBook Air: 2010 or later
- MacBook Pro: 2010 or later
- Mac mini: 2010 or later
- Mac Pro: 2010 or later
In other words, anything made more than 7 years ago isn't supported with AirPlay 2.
How does AirPlay 2 work with iOS and music?
- Control multiple speakers from the iPhone or iPad
- Multiple users can add songs to one playlist
- Multi-room for HomePod
Apple AirPlay 2 adds speaker control to the Home app, meaning you can individually control all of your AirPlay-compatible speakers from your iPhone for the first time. Note, however, that the speakers need to support AirPlay 2. This is something that can already be done using a MacBook with iTunes, but iOS devices have previously lacked the ability.
Considering it's more down to the phone sending the audio signals to the speakers, we expect any streaming service you have installed on your iPhone to be able to work with AirPlay 2 speakers.
When you play music from your iOS device, you can select which speakers around your home you want it to be sent to and control individual volumes of those speakers. These controls can be found in Control Centre by swiping up from the bottom of your iPhone screen.
One feature possible with AirPlay 2 is the ability to play different songs in different rooms, although only Apple Music subscribers can take advantage of it. You can simply ask Siri to play one song on one speaker, and another on one in a different room.
Another feature of AirPlay 2 is the ability for multiple users to add songs to one playlist. Say you're at a party, and one person has their iPhone as the music source, playing Apple Music - other Apple Music users are able to send songs they want played to the source iPhone, to save having to connect and reconnect several phones.
When is AirPlay 2 coming to my speakers?
The following brands have confirmed existing hardware is getting an AirPlay 2 update. We'll update this list as more updates roll out.
Bang and Olufsen
Bang and Olufsen is offering AirPlay 2 updates for the following products:
- Beoplay M3, M5, A6, A9 mk2 & mk3
- BeoSound 1, 2, 35
- BeoSound Essence mk2
- BeoSound Edge
- BeoSound Core
- BeoSound Shape (via BeoSound Core)
- BeoVision Eclipse (audio only)
A software update brings AirPlay 2 to all Bluesound Generation 2i speakers - you'll be prompted to update your players to the latest version of BluOS.
According to a Bose forum thread, Bose is "actively collecting information to answer inquiries about AirPlay 2 and HomeKit". Confirmations are scarce, but some are confirmed:
- Bose Home Speaker 500 - 2019
- Soundbar 500 - 2019
- Soundbar 700 - 2019
AirPlay 2 support has been introduced to a number of Denon's new and current hi-fi and home cinema products and 2017 and 2018 models are compatible.
- Denon HEOS HS2
Devialet has confirmed that it will be supporting AirPlay 2, but it's still developing the solution.
KEF now says that the LSX supports AirPlay 2 after a June 2019 software update.
- KEF LSX
Libratone has updated its Zipp line for AirPlay 2. Unfortunately, it's not coming to the AirPlay-enabled Diva soundbar or older products.
- Zipp 2
- Zipp Mini
- Zipp Mini 2
A range of Marantz receivers will support AirPlay 2.
- AV7703, 7704, 7705
- NR1508, 1509, 1608, 1609
- SR5012, 5013, 6012, 6013, 7011, 7012, 7013, 8012
AirPlay 2 is incorporated within the M10 Masters Series Streaming Amplifier, also powered by BluOS like its sister Bluesound products.
- Mu-so Special Edition
- Mu-so 2nd generation
- Mu-so Qb
- Uniti Atom
- Uniti Star
- Uniti Nova
- ND 555, ND5 XS 2m NDX 2
Onkyo has pushed an update to a number of products as of 18 April, spanning AV receivers, home theatre systems and network stereo receivers. The following devices can now all be updated:
- TX-RZ5100, TX-RZ3100, TX-RZ1100, TX-RZ830, TX-RZ730, TX-NR686, TX-L50
- TX-L20D, TX-8270
Pioneer has confirmed the models that will be getting an AirPlay 2 upgrade. The software update is now live so you should be able to update the following products:
- VSX-S520, VSX-S520D, VSX-LX303, VSX-LX503, VSX-933, SC-LX901, SC-LX801, SC-LX701
Sonos confirmed only newer Sonos speakers will support AirPlay 2, as will future Sonos products. AirPlay 2 is now available for the following older products:
- Play:5 (second-gen)
- Sonos One
- Sonos Beam
- Sonos Amp (coming soon)
When is AirPlay 2 coming to my TV?
It has been confirmed that AirPlay 2 is coming to a range of televisions. This is a major step-change for Apple, as you'll no longer need Apple TV to connect to the big screen.
LG is offering HomeKit support and AirPlay 2 on 2019 models. There's been no mention of older TVs.
- LG OLED (2019)
- LG NanoCell SM9X, SM8X (2019)
- LG UHD UM7X (2019)
Samsung is offering pretty wide support for AirPlay 2 on its latest-generation TVs. Beyond that, it's also going to have exclusive iTunes access, giving you an app on your TV to access Apple's content.
- Samsung QLED (2019, 2018)
- Samsung 7, 6, 5, 4 series (2019, 2018)
Sony is also joining the AirPlay 2 party on 2019 TVs.
- Sony Z9G (2019)
- Sony A9G OLED (2019)
- Sony X950G (2019)
- Sony X850G (2019)
Visio perhaps offers the widest support for AirPlay 2, coming to models from 2017, 2018 and 2019.
- Vizio P-Series Quantum (2019, 2018)
- Vizio P-Series (2019, 2018, 2017)
- Vizio M-Series (2019, 2018, 2017)
- Vizio E-Series (2019, 2018, 2017)
- Vizio D-series (2019, 2018, 2017)
Apple AirPlay 2 with Apple TV
Provided you have tvOS 11 or later, your Apple TV can send audio to speakers around your home as well, rather than just coming from your iPhone or iPad.
Whatever speaker is connected to the Apple TV, be it a soundbar or speaker system, is automatically a de facto AirPlay 2 speaker.
Apple AirPlay 2 in HomeKit
AirPlay 2 is also able to be used with other HomeKit devices to create scenes. Imagine coming home and not only your lights coming on to welcome you but a fanfare of trumpets played through AirPlay 2 supporting speakers.
On a more serious note though, you could use it to alert you of certain things that are happening - like an alarm - or merely that part of your evening routine is to have music played at a certain time automatically without you having to worry about turning it on.
Apple AirPlay 2 with Siri
Siri takes on a prominent role with the arrival of AirPlay 2 and multi-room audio. You can tell her which speakers you want music playing on whichever speakers you have dotted around your home, and you can even ask her to play different songs on different speakers. You're not just restricted to using Siri with the HomePod either, as she will play nice with any other third-party AirPlay 2 speaker.
Will the original AirPlay still work?
Yes it will, don't worry!